Temple Mount closed to visitors 2nd time in week after Palestinians, police clash

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Israeli police have again closed access to the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem to Palestinian worshipers as clashes continue in the heart of the city. It comes a day after an Israeli minister said the mosque would be replaced with a Jewish temple.

The holy site has been a focus of tension since last week, when Israel closed it to Muslim worshipers.

Al-Aqsa, also known as the Temple Mount, is Islam’s third most-venerated site.

Israeli police closed it for the first time since 1963 in retaliation for the killing of a prominent right-wing Jewish activist, provoking outcry from the Arab population.

Access was renewed a day later, but males under 50 were still banned from entry.

The renewed shutdown of Al-Aqsa on Wednesday comes after daily clashes in the streets of East Jerusalem and the Old City. Palestinian youths attack Israeli police with stones and fire crackers.

Police said they sent forces to the holy compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, as clashes erupted near it minutes before it was due to be opened to the public.

“Police entered the area, pushed the masked rioters back, and they fled back into Al-Aqsa. Police closed the front gate of the mosque but did not enter,” said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld as cited by Reuters.

Israeli security forces used stun grenades to disperse the protesting crowd. Some 20 people were reportedly injured in the fresh clash.

The entry ban for Al-Aqsa was imposed on Thursday last week after a prominent right-wing activist, Yehuda Glick, was shot dead a day earlier.

Israeli special forces killed Mutaz Hijazi, the young Palestinian man they believe responsible for the attack, in a raid to detain him on Friday.

Israel’s control of access to Al-Aqsa has been a sore point in relations between Jews and Palestinians for decades.

The Second Intifada, a wave of armed Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation, was triggered by a September 2000 visit to the mosque by right-wing politician Ariel Sharon, who at the time was campaigning for the Israeli prime ministership.

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